A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.
Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.
They’re polar opposites.
Looo In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.
Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.
Let me preface this review by saying how much I loved this book, it had depth, it had engaging writing and it had such a swoon worthy romance. I didn’t know how much I needed a cute romance like this until I read it and sped through it in a matter of days, I can see this being huge over the summer especially as we’re all still spending more time indoors and who doesn’t need a healthy dose of escapism!
I loved the basis of the story and how the plot progresses, from January and Gus discovering that they’re neighbours for the summer to their developing friendship and then burgeoning romance and chemistry. I think the whole idea works so well because it’s just so fun – both main character’s are writers but while Jan writes heartwarming romances, Gus is all about dark and twisty literary fiction. Their challenge then becomes to write what neither have written before; Jan has to write literary fiction and Gus has to write a romance. I loved their banter and the challenges this task provides for them both and how it forces to re-evaluate their beliefs and their ‘niches’ as writers. I think it also makes some interesting points about which kind of books are taken seriously and which books aren’t.
I also really liked the fact that Jan and Gus had that whole not quite rivals to lovers thing going on. This was a more one sided rivalry but it was still fun to read as this is explored through their snarky banter and back and forth and also how they reminisce about their times in college. I love the trope of college friends / acquaintances reconnecting later in life and noticing how the other has changed, or how certain things were misconstrued when they were younger. I thought Gus was such a refreshing character in that he had the whole dark and brooding persona but he wasn’t needlessly mean to January or any other character.
As well as the light and sexy moments, there was also a lot more depth than I expected from a book called Beach Read, but I guess it was a case of not judging a book by its cover or title in this case. I wasn’t expecting the complex family relationships, infidelity and exploration of childhood abuse which was in the novel and I think these issues were tackled in a sensitive way. It was so heartwarming to read as both Jan and Gus shed their defences and learn to trust again. While this wasn’t strictly a second chance romance – as the characters didn’t date but had a close encounter in college – it had the feel of a second chance romance all the same and it was a sweet element.
I did want to point out one issue with this which others readers have also picked up on and that’s in the way the one POC in the novel is represented. Shari is Jan’s best friend, but she only pops in and out to give some advice and then disappears again. While I liked how close their friendship was and how they clearly care a lot about each other, enough to come and visit at the drop of a hat, I didn’t like how we got no backstory on her and especially how ethnically ambiguous her character was left. This is a pet peeve of mine when an author has a POC in their work but makes minimal effort to actually explore them, it just feels a bit lazy. I would have liked if Shari was more fleshed out and we got the chance to get to know her the way we did some of the other secondary characters. All we know about her is that she has the tendency to fall in love quickly and has a big heart, but it would have been nice if she had her own backstory rather than just being a sounding board for Jan and her issues. If you’re looking for more nuanced rep then I would recommend reading a book by a BIPOC writer.
Overall, Beach Read is an enjoyable, feel good book, which made me tear up, swoon and smile so much. I would definitely recommend this book to fans of contemporary romance and anyone looking for a really fun and engaging book to read over the summer or at any time really but just keep in mind it’s a bit of a slower one, it hopefully won’t disappoint!
Until next time,